When I was in my sophomore year of high school, my mom had decided to purchase chickens to raise. She did so, but her boyfriend wanted to buy something else as well. He wanted to buy “the mystery package” because “it promised a good deal.” Seeing as it was his money that would be going to “the mystery package”, we let him. He had no way of knowing that the contents of the package would lead him to a lot of stress.
Inside that package, there were two little baby turkeys. They weren’t the chickens he wanted, but we saw an opportunity. We decided that we would breed the turkeys for future Thanksgiving dinners. However, we hit a snag. These were a type of turkey that could not breed naturally. But this error led us down yet another path. What if we raised turkeys that could? After all, it wasn’t natural that these birds could not breed, and more people were demanding natural foods. With some research we looked into what birds were the best. We came across a breed that caught our attention, it was both rare and had won awards for being tasty. It was the Midget White. So we figured, that was our best bet.
Now, all of this probably sounds like going down the right path. We researched if there was any demand for “natural” birds, and looked up what would likely be most marketable bird. However, our plan for turkeys failed. We ended up with a bunch of expensive, annoying birds that cost us a lot of money and failed to make sales. In retrospect, there were several reasons for this.
We did not do research in regard to the regional area and the purchasing habits of the people in the area. The main population we would be selling to was less affluent people. They were not interested in the higher priced heritage turkeys. The benefits of the product did not interest them, not when little 17 pound “natural” Midget White turkeys might cost $50 while they could buy big old 40 pound butterball turkeys for about $40. Big agriculture companies also had a good reputation in that area, so they were not interested in the sustainable agriculture component of our message. Before we bought those turkeys we failed to use social media to gauge interest.
The second issue we faced was that we had not researched our product enough. We knew there was no one else in the state of Missouri who sold the Midget White turkey. We tried selling pullets on Craigslist. Surprisingly, we got a response. A woman wanted 10 pullets. So we got started on hatching, and we quickly found out that pullets are very difficult to hatch. We did 3 hatches of 30 eggs, and each time only got about 3 live pullets and a whole bunch of duds. By the time we figured things out, the woman had lost patience with us and no pullets were sold. With more research, we could have known more about hatching and not have lost that sale. There are many websites for poultry enthusiasts, we could have used that resource more. It also would have helped us in knowing how much food would end up costing us.
Finally, in marketing we had not used our resources as much as we could. We just used Facebook and Craigslist to market our turkeys. We could have searched more to find specialty forums for people who were interested. However, we stuck to the basics and suffered for it.
In the end, we ended up finding a buyer for the turkeys. We sold them for $50 apiece, but much later than we had wanted. We tried to keep 2 females and 2 males, but one of the females turned out to be a male and the female got eaten. The males all died this year.
My family made a big investment, and it ended up failing. We lost money, not enough to ruin us, but not an insignificant amount. With more research, a better understanding of our target market, and using all our resources, this could have been avoided. In the end, it is important to do lots of research so your business can avoid a fate most fowl.
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